The owners of a Rotorua cafe want to normalise te reo Maori and share their culture through food.

Kai Caff Aye is the latest eatery to open on Fenton St owned by husband and wife team, Charlene Whakatau and Hikurangi Tahau.

"With our name, the 'Kai' represents us as Maori, we love our food. The 'Caff' is our love of coffee in the morning to get us going and the 'Aye' represents us as Kiwis – it's a slang we often use," Tahau (Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Rua) said.

With the menu items in te reo Maori and a karakia on the wall to bless the food, the couple want the cafe to represent who they and their staff are and what they enjoy eating.

It also aligned with Rotorua being declared the country's first official bilingual city last year.


"Having te reo Maori here represents who we are, our native language and we are proud to be able to share that.

"We also love our kai and we felt there wasn't any one place for us to go," Whakatau (Ngati Pikiao) said.

"You had to go to different places to get cream paua and another place to get fried bread or a burger and we wanted that under the one roof," Tahau said.

"Here there's kina, oysters, fresh crayfish and sometimes we know our people just want to have mince and egg on toast for parakuihi (breakfast) before they go to mahi (work)."

Born and bred in Rotorua, the couple were determined to support and hire locals.

They were overwhelmed with applicants for their four positions advertised, with more than 100 people applying.

"We hired our locals because for years we've seen our own people with so much skill and talent who have had limited opportunities to showcase that.

"All our staff here are qualified and experienced in the industry but also in one way or another have been brought up on a marae. Having those wharekai (kitchen) skills and their manaakitanga (hospitality) is what sets us apart," Whakatau said.